Excel Is Talking to Me

Excel is talking to me

There are days when we can hear the voices in our heads, whispering encouraging things like, “Oh go ahead – another cookie won’t hurt!” Or, “Wow, that’s an amazing formula you just built in that worksheet! You should take a break now.”

The voices are right sometimes, and other times I just ignore them. But a few days ago, the voices started to come from Excel – and that was a bit alarming! I finally managed to turn off the voice in Excel, as you’ll see at the end of this article.

The Spreadsheet Speaks

No, I hadn’t been drinking, and it’s almost winter, so heat stroke wasn’t a possibility. I had been working on an Excel file, and was putting line breaks in a long formula.

Just like putting a break in a text entry, I was pressing Alt + Enter, to make each section of the formula start on a new line. It’s easier to read them that way, especially if you make the formula bar tall enough to see a few lines.


Suddenly, Excel began to speak, and sections of it were outlined with a blue border. Apparently I had angered it in some way!

Trying to Turn Off the Voice in Excel

The Esc key turns off lots of things in Excel, but it does not turn off mysterious voices. The voice just taunts you by saying “Escape.” Just for fun, I typed “I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that,” and clicked on that cell so the voice could read it, in its best HAL 9000 voice.

I figured that this was a text to speech accessibility feature, and Google might know how to turn it off. I’m using Windows 8.1, and my search brought me to this page on the Microsoft site: Accessibility in Windows 8

It seemed like a bad sign that an accessibility page had some of the smallest print that I’ve ever seen. But, a few rows down, the article mentioned Windows Narrator, and showed the shortcut for starting it (I had to squint to read it):

  • On a keyboard, press the Windows logo key+Enter.

So that explained how I turned it on – the Windows logo key is beside the Alt key. Instead of putting in a line break, I had turned on the Narrator.

turn off the voice in Excel

Turning Off the Voice in Excel

The Microsoft article didn’t mention any shortcuts for turning off the voice, so I pressed the Window key and Enter again, to see what would happen. Success! The voice, and all the blue borders disappeared, and things were back to normal, here at Contextures. Well, as normal as ever.

So, if you ever hear voices coming from Excel, press the Window key and tap the Enter key. That might make them go away.

Other Voices in Excel

If that solution doesn’t work, you might have turned on the “Speak Cells on Enter” command. It is one of the “Speak Cells” features in Excel — commands that can be added to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).

excel speak cell commands added to QAT

Speak Cells

  • If you click the Speak Cells command, it will read the selected cells, and will stop at the end of the selected range.
  • While the Speak Cells command is reading, click the Speak Cells – Stop Speaking Cells, to stop the reading immediately.

Speak Cells on Enter

  • If you turn on the Speak Cells on Enter command, it will automatically read the cell contents as soon as you press Enter.
  • NOTE: The Speak Cells on Enter command is not affected by the Speak Cells – Stop Speaking Cells command.
  • The Speak Cells on Enter command is a toggle — if the command is activated, click it again, to turn off the voice in Excel. In the screen shot below, the command is activated — it has a light green background, instead of dark green.

speak cells on enter is activated

Video: Turn Off Narrator Voice in Excel

To see the steps to turn off the voice in Excel, please watch this short video. It shows the Narrator shortcut that turns it on and off.